Thursday, August 16, 2012

Battle of Smolensk II - Massing forces

All afternoon the forces of the two contending powers massed around the city, divided by the Dnieper.  The hours did not pass without excitment, however, for at one stage Raevski's cavalry were forced back beneath the walls, and the French 46th Regiment all but succeeded in capturing the Royal Citadel when the garrison was rushed off to meet a supposed thrust toward a vital bridge.  No major attack was ordered by the Emporor, however, and when darkness fell the French gains were very limited.  By dusk, however, Davout and Poniatowski had arrived to take up positions on Ney's right, thus completing the semicircle around the Old City.  Meanwhile General Doctorov had arrived to take over the positions held by the Russian VIIth Corps, Raevski recrossing the bridge to the north bank in order to rejoin Bagration's army, which was massing to the east of the New Town while Barclay's corps were fast appearing on the western heights.  For the present, then, Smolensk was safe from a French coup de main.

~D. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, p.786

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